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MLBPA's Michael Weiner details brain cancer fight

Tim Brown
Yahoo Sports

NEW YORK – Every morning, now more than ever, Michael Weiner awakens to a quest, he said, to rediscover "beauty, meaning and joy," and then he is helped into a wheelchair, and then he goes to work, and then he copes with the cancerous tumor in his head.

Currently the tumor – it is inoperable – has shut down the right side of his body. So he bobs his left foot on the wheelchair pedal, and he speaks from the left side of his mouth, and he gestures with his left hand as a time-buffed gold watch slides up and down his depleted left forearm.

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MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner is battling brain cancer. (USA Today Sports)

Incongruously, perhaps insidiously, the tumor in his brain has attacked some functions of his body but not those of his brain. So the executive director of the players' union, 51 years old, 3 ½ years on the job, having raised three daughters, takes experimental drugs to remain hopeful, and takes on the day in search of what he has left. The Biogenesis scandal is as much his as it is the commissioner's, and expanded instant replay is coming, and there is always something that must be tended to, including plans for his own succession.

On Tuesday afternoon he kept an appointment to address the members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, which he's done annually since replacing Don Fehr. He followed Bud Selig on the itinerary, so he waited in a hallway outside the banquet room. A handful of union employees were with him, as was his wife, Diane. When the door opened, Joe Torre emerged, smiled broadly and greeted Weiner. Torre works for the commissioner, and decades ago was an ardent supporter of the fledgling union and its leader, Marvin Miller.

Torre held out his right hand. Weiner gripped it with his left.

"Nice to see you," Selig said, and placed a hand on Weiner's shoulder.

These are tumultuous times for the game. The details of those Biogenesis notebooks and what Selig intends to do with the information could lead to a fight. There are dozens of names, dozens of possibilities, and the union measures its default position to protect its membership against a membership that seems more inclined than ever to punish its own. Weiner remains dug in for due process, of course, for a fair fight.

He has chosen to stay at it.

So a woman from his office wheeled him to a position beside the podium that a few minutes before fronted Selig. A microphone was placed in his lap. In these addresses, Weiner had proven to be forthright and non-confrontational. This time, his voice was muffled. His words fought for their usual crispness.

"Um, as I guess some of you know," he began, "I have brain cancer."

He explained what was happening. The medication. A prognosis that is less than optimistic. Why he was in this wheelchair, his right arm strapped to the rail by Velcro. The contingency plan if his health worsens, an emergency plan if that becomes necessary. Diane, his wife, stood nearby, listening.

"So," he said finally, "that's my situation."

A dozen or so questions followed, most of them about Biogenesis, what was next with Biogenesis, what the union intended to do about the Biogenesis fallout.

At a pause, Weiner grinned.

"Any questions about anything other than Biogenesis or brain cancer?" he asked.

So he was asked about himself. About the days since last summer, when he was diagnosed, and the way he might see things today, and how it's all changed.

"I don't know," Weiner said, "if I look at things differently. Maybe they just became more important to me and conscious to me going forward. As corny as it sounds, I get up in the morning and I feel I'm going to take each day as it comes.

"What I look for every day is beauty, meaning and joy. And if I can find beauty, meaning and joy, then that's a good day. … I'll live each day for those things. And I'll live each day looking for those things. Because I don't know how much time I'll have."

By the end, his words had become thicker, his gestures more subdued. The room rose in applause. Not for the head of the union. Not for his grace in coming. Not for any of that. The affection was for his fight, for his search for the joy out there, for a good man in a hard place who goes to bed every night rooting for morning.

He nodded slightly. A tough room had gone soft on him.

"Thanks a lot guys," he said. "Thanks a lot."

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